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Traditional Afghan Council to Choose New Government in June - 2002-03-31


Afghan officials say a traditional council of tribal leaders, or Loya Jirga, will convene in June to choose a new, broad-based transitional government for the war-ravaged country.

The head of the commission set up to organize the council (Mohammad Ismael Qasimyr) says the body will have nearly 15-hundred delegates, including 160 women.

Organizers say potential candidates for election to the council must have no links with terrorist groups, drug smugglers or suspected war criminals.

The commission chairman says ex-Afghan King Mohammad Zahir Shah will return from exile April 16th to call the assembly, which is set to meet June 10th through June 16th. The former monarch's return -- originally set for mid-March -- was delayed until April for security reasons.

The 21-member organizing commission was set up under the terms of a December agreement in Bonn, after U-S-led forces crushed Afghanistan's Taleban government late last year in the war on terrorism. The commission also set up the interim government headed by Hamid Karzai.

Under the terms of the Bonn agreement, his government is to give way in June to a transitional authority, which is to hold power for 18 months. National elections will then determine who will lead Afghanistan.

The Loya Jirga -- a centuries-old Afghan tradition -- will eventually adopt a new constitution for Afghanistan, which has suffered through war, Soviet occupation and -- for the last four years -- severe drought.

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